The thing about being a water damage and repair specialist is that no one seems to care about what you do until they desperately need your help. We spoke with Maria Neumann, owner of Water Damage Recovery in Northern California to find out just what it is a restoration expert does and when and why someone would need to hire one. Here’s what she had to say.
What exactly does a water damage and repair specialist do?
“What we do is we save people tens of thousands of dollars,” Neumann says. “Because if you have water running all over your carpets and through your walls and you don’t dry it in under 48 hours, you’re going to get mold and excessive damage.”
Basically, what Neumann and people like her do is come into your house after you’ve had major water damage of some kind, whether it’s a broken pipe, build up in a crawl space, or flooding from a natural disaster.
Why is it important to call a professional?
Water damage can be fast and it can be dramatic. Neumann says if you call quickly enough, her team can get in there, get everything dried up, prevent damage like warped floors, cracking sheet rock, etc. and get your life back to normal within three or four days. “But if it turns to mold, then everything has to be thrown away, the air has to be tested, and suddenly you have a huge demolition project on your hands.”
“Also,” Neumann says, “There’s a special protocol for cleaning up sewage; you can’t just wipe it up. If it touches anything porous, you have to cut it out and throw it away and you need to be doing that while wearing Personal Protection Equipment (basically a hazmat suit).” After all, sewage water can contain bacteria that can get you and your entire family really sick. The thing is, you may actually not even realize that your water damage is sewage, but Neumann points out that if you have a broken pipe below your sink and there are three or four months of potato peels under your house, that’s considered hazardous waste. “We have guys who will come in with state-of-the-art equipment to handle all of the deodorizing, scraping dirt, laying down new dirt, and making it possible for people to live in their home safely again.”
What are the most common problems water damage specialists see?
Neumann says she sees a lot of water damage caused by human carelessness, like the dad who flushed a diaper down the toilet not once, but twice, or the woman who threw a towel that knocked a faucet on and then went out to lunch for three hours while her entire house flooded. But there’s also the other kind of damage, which is caused by pipes breaking or a toilet overflowing and going unnoticed. And sometimes pipes that break do so in places that are totally out of sight, so no one even realizes until they smell the one or two feet of sewage that’s been building up under the house.
Regardless of how or why the damage occurs though, it’s important to bring in a professional to fix it because if you don’t dry a space out properly, you can easily end up spending thousands and thousands of dollars after the fact.
When should I call a water damage specialist?
A plumber fixes the problem; a water damage specialist helps clean it up. Neumann says “There’s no point in having a water damage specialist come in until after the problem is fixed.” Still, you want them to get in as quickly as possible to minimize permanent damage, so even if you can only get the water source shut off, it’s okay to go ahead and call.
How much will it cost?
“It’s going to be about twice as much as you think it should be,” Neumann said. “But it’s almost always covered by insurance.” If you’re working with a good company, they should actually help guide you through the insurance claim process to make it easier for you.
As far as what you’re paying for, Neumann explains that this business carries a lot of costs because they’re working with mold and hazardous materials, so she has expensive workman’s comp, liability insurance, a contractor’s license, etc. Those are all good things because it means if something does go wrong, you’re dealing with a company who is in a position to make it right.
Again though, what’s most important is to get a company who can get there as fast as possible. “If you call a company and they say they’ll be there in two days,” Neumann says, “Call someone else.” She explains, “The longer the water sits there, the more it’s going to move up the walls or down the hallway. And the more the water moves, the more it’s going to cost.”
What should I do while I’m waiting for the specialist to arrive?
If it’s safe to do so, turn off power outlets and appliances near or in the flooded areas. Make sure the water source is turned off and then remove anything on the floor, including wet rugs if you can. You’ll also want to mop up as much water as possible to keep it from spreading. This is also the time to move art or valuables to a safe, dry place.
How do I decide who to hire?
Neumann is adamant that it’s so important to hire a company with good online reviews on sites like Thumbtack. “It means you care about your customers, are willing to stand behind your work, and do a good job at a fair price.”
Maria Neumann is the owner of Water Damage Recovery in Northern California. Her company takes care of residential and commercial water damage, mold removal, sewage cleanup, fire and smoke damage, and more. You can also find her company on Thumbtack.